Are You My Father?..
Shutterbugs - as much as you may be enjoying the back side to that camera, you may one day wake up to see that you have no visual history of your own. I say this as a voice of an unfortunate experience with one of my own kids.
I have three daughters, each about five years apart in age. While all three of them have been, in their own unique ways, my teachers, there's one lesson my youngest (Gretchen) taught me, that I will never forget!
By the time she was born, Prints Charming was six years old, and we were in dire need of more space. Her mom preferred not to work, so I did my best to amplify my business to a level that would allow that to be.
The consequences of doing weekday studio, and weekend weddings and events, was “making Jack a very dull boy”. The most adverse affect, however, is something that I know many of us are equally guilty of, as we THINK we’re selflessly being the family historian by staying on the backside of the camera.
After much effort to avoid, we made the difficult but amiable decision to provide the girls two happy homes, vs. the one home that was lacking harmony (a.k.a. divorced). Since the two younger girls were more mom-dependent at the time, it was agreed that a larger portion of their time would be with mom, and their detailed (and she REALLY detailed them) photo albums went with them.
Over time, the girls were asking for "more time at dads", which we all mutually agreed should now be 50/50. I had heard from older sisters, that Gretchen LOVED flipping through her album often.
The first night on the newly balanced parenting schedule, I was tucking Gretchen in. I couldn't help but notice that she was a bit down. It took a bit of gentle persuasion, but eventually she shared what was troubling her.
“I don’t understand why I need to be here more. I don’t want to sound mean, but I should be with the one who made me.”We had an abbreviated discussion about the way things worked (biologically), and I explained that she was half me.
At moms - photos cover the walls and their albums, at dads (in my then home-based business)… The only people portraits that hung were of my clients. I had never imagined from a 2nd graders perspective, just how odd it must be to go stay with this guy that was far less familiar to her photo-filled life.
I explained “Gretchen, when you look through your album next time, try something different. Try and image that what you are doing is looking through my eyes. When you are looking through your album, that is what you are doing.”While I did self-time-and-run for a few family portraits, it just didn’t happen that I ever showed up in the photos.
Perhaps the most ironic thing, is that when she about three, her favorite book for me to read was "Are You My Mother". As much as I loathed that book, she loved my animated - "SNORT!"
That next day her stepmom and I took our full clan shopping at the mall. I’ll never forget Gretchen running ahead of her siblings to grab my free hand as we walked. It felt like the first time she held my hand and that she never wanted to let go.
From that day forward, I decided that I would not only show up in photos more often, but would bang this drum as I speak to other photographers. Show up! More than just a come-and-go selfie on Facebook, but a portrait, a memory a connection to those that are most important in your life! Get used to looking AT the camera, and not just through it.
Thank you to ALL of my kids for knowing that I was there, and thanks to you Gretchen - I have a little more proof that I was!